design 1996, production 2009, steel, 290 × 450 × 100 cm

Vratislav Karel Novák (1942–2014) was a sculptor, designer of original jewellery and a teacher. His work defies clear categorisation; it transcends the boundaries of individual disciplines and thus represents a wholly unique phenomenon in Czech art since the late 1960s. In Novák’s work, the geometric rationality of Constructivism is juxtaposed and intermingled with subversive irony; likewise, the hardness and sharpness of metal and glass is contrasted with the vulnerable sensuality of the human body. Novák’s sculptural objects are often kinetic or intentionally interactive, embodying the artist’s reflections on the ‘cosmological clockwork’ in an intimate dialogue with the specific reality of the viewer. Novák’s most famous project is the Metronome (1991) permanently installed on Letná Plain, Prague, on the site of the former Stalin Monument.

As part of the long-term project Open-air GASK, Novák’s monumental steel sculpture Planets – Circles (design 1996, production 2009) was installed in late November 2023 on the site of a former Baroque lime kiln. ‘The sculpture Planets – Circles reflects Kepler’s laws of planetary motion both artistically and through an emotional experience. The mass of the two rings rolls along the edge of the steel plate in a seeming state of weightlessness. The physical phenomena of inertia and friction, which Isaac Newton addressed in astronomy, are also encoded in the sculpture. The theorem of the mathematician and physicist Archimedes of Syracuse is also encoded in it: “Give me a fulcrum on which to plant my lever and I will move the world…” for it is really enough to tilt the plane with a lever and the cylinder with the circles (planets) will start moving…’ wrote Novák about his work.

The installing of the sculpture Planets – Circles in the GASK gardens is directly connected with the exhibition VKN – Still Moving that will be held at GASK in the Blackbox and Whitebox spaces of the Printmaking Crossovers programme from the 18th February to the 8th September 2024, the tenth anniversary of the V.K. Novák’s death. The artist’s daughter, Kateřina Nora Nováková, PhD, curator of the Museum of Glass and Jewellery in Jablonec nad Nisou, and the artist’s wife, doc. M.A. Ludmila Šikolová, lecturer at the Department of Design, Faculty of Textile Engineering, Technical University of Liberec, are working with GASK on the exhibition’s conception.